Austin watches gov’s pen
City hoping for up to $5 million for flood projects
By Tim Ruzek
Austin city leaders are hoping $5 million for flood-relief projects will be part of a state bonding bill that Gov. Tim Pawlenty might sign today.
Pawlenty was expected to have a news conference at 2:30 p.m. in St. Paul to announce his action on the Capital Investment bill, which passed last week through the House and Senate.
On Friday, Pawlenty singled out projects in the construction-finance bill that he thinks represent misplaced legislative priorities, but said he’d withhold action on it until today. The governor hasn’t said whether he’ll block just those or veto the entire bill, which adds $925 million to the state’s general obligation debt load.
Pawlenty can either sign the bill, veto it or sign it after pulling out projects he opposes. He has said the bill is too big and would bust the state’s debt ceiling.
With the bonding bill, legislators first approve an overall amount of money for flood-relief projects. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources then decides how to distribute the funds.
For Austin, $5 million in this year’s bonding bill would help the city nearly complete its roughly $12 million North Main flood plan.
The first work on the North Main plan — a nearly $1 million project — will begin this spring along the east bank of the Cedar River from the Second Avenue Northeast bridge going north to the area near Packer Arena.
With the bonding funds, the city would use its half-cent sales tax collection as matching funds for the North Main plan, a multi-phase project to build flood-mitigation structures along the Cedar River from Second Avenue Northeast to Interstate 90.
City officials are expecting to issue a revenue bond to generate the matching local amount if Austin gets $5 million and then use sales-tax funds to pay off the loan.
The project is part of the city’s $28 million comprehensive flood plan, created after Austin’s worst flooding in September 2004.
Austin’s other bonding request of $3 million to support a new Austin Area Success Center, which would bring together parenting and child-care programs in one location, isn’t part of the proposed bonding bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.